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I hope you’ve been well and have found a few minutes to take for yourself in all the business and the demands of your day.
When I was a stay-at-home dad for ten years, I felt like I never had enough time to myself; there was always too much to do.
Three growing kids kept me so busy that the only “me” time I had most days was from 10:00 pm to midnight. Even though I was exhausted, I had to stay up just to have some quiet time to read, relax, and think.
And with all the kids’ activities, it was hard to get enough time to work in my garden. Until I came up with a plan to be with my kids and get the gardening work done too.
OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tip #15: Get your kids (or somebody else’s) to help you in the garden.
A lot of times when my kids were little, I would have them in the yard while I was tending to the garden. As they got older, they would want to help.
At first I wouldn’t let them because I wanted things to be done “exactly right”—as if that is really possible. Believe it or not, I even goof up myself sometimes. But don’t tell anybody.
I finally realized that if little hands didn’t get the seeds precisely where I thought they should go, it was not the end of the world. That was a harder lesson to learn than I really want to admit.
BFOs in the garden
But once that BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) hit me broadside, things went much better in the children-in-the-garden department.
No, it wasn’t always the most time efficient strategy to have my kids help in the garden, but it was great time spent together. And it got better over time.
As they got older, they each had little sections in the garden where they could plant whatever they wanted. I’ll never forget the year the kids grew our own very own popcorn! You could actually taste the difference when it was popped.
If you don’t have any kids or yours think they are too grown up to work in the garden or they’re just plain not interested (it’s probably not a great idea to force them to do it), then take a look around your neighborhood.
If your kids see somebody else helping you, that may be just what it takes to get them interested.
Before my kids were really old enough to do much, there were a couple of boys up the block, Michael and Demetri, recently immigrated from Russia, who always came over to watch me working in the garden.
It didn’t take long for me to notice their wide eyes and I quickly asked if they wanted to help dig the holes, plant the tomatoes or whatever task was at hand.
They didn’t know anything about gardening, so it was also an opportunity for me to teach them some basics. We had some great times together.
Sometimes they even fought over whose turn it was to help. Michael would complain that Demetri got a longer turn than he did. Hey, they were brothers.
But it was wonderful for me because I had some interaction with two wonderful kids, and they actually helped me quite a bit.
So what if you don’t have any kids in your house or the neighborhood and no grandkids handy? Find some to import. Seriously.
Think about who you know at church or work with kids or grandkids who may be secretly chomping at the bits to get their hands in the dirt? Just put the word out and you will probably find some little hands to help you in the garden.
When kids help plan, take care of and harvest their own little piece of terra firma, they take on the pride of ownership. And this often translates into eating things they never would have tried if you bought it at the store.
I remember my oldest daughter, Virginia, when she was about 3 years old, going to the garden and eating the red and yellow sweet million tomatoes right off the vines she had helped me plant.
In fact, she insisted we take a big bowl of them to her pre-school for snack time. It was like mystery food from outer space to most of the kids in her class. But she ate them like candy.
This made my heart sing the “Song of the Happy Parent.” I had hated tomatoes growing up and felt like I had orchestrated a major coup when she ate them with such delight at the tender age of 3.
And having their own little plot of garden space teaches them responsibility.
As they gain the knowledge, skills and discipline needed to take care of “their” garden, they mature right under your eyes. It’s amazing!
They help the garden grow. The garden helps them grow.
The next generation of gardeners
Getting kids excited about gardening is crucial to the future of our world.
When my wife, Polly, was little, her mother was an amazing gardener, but she never let her kids help out. It always had to be done “just so.”
As a result, Polly never really learned about gardening because her mother did it all herself and didn’t pass along any of her gardening wisdom.
My mother and grandpa were the ones that got me to fall in love with gardening. It’s made all the difference in my life for over 50 years. I’ll always be grateful.
We can’t afford to have this gardening know-how lost to the next generation. So please take this “tip” to heart and get some kids involved in your garden.
And don’t forget, they ARE kids. They may not do it “just right.” But you can make it fun. You can make it educational. It’s a wonderful way to come together as a family and have a great garden in the process.
Well, it looks like I’m rambling on here a little bit like an over-grown tomato vine at the end of the summer. So I close for now.
I’d love to hear your experiences working with kids in the garden. Did your parents let (or make) you work in the garden? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
In the meantime, stay healthy and enjoy the quiet moments when you can.
To the little hands and feet helping in your garden,James Early Organic Gardening 365 Helping you get the most out of your organic garden all year long P. S. For the complete series of OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tips, click here.
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